Why trend spotting is a crucial part of your business growth strategy

A Deloitte 'trend sensor' on the importance of observing wider industry movements.
25 November 2019

Trend-spotting is a crucial part of business growth.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” So are the words of Sun Tzu in The Art of War, a book on strategy that remain as relevant now as they were in the 5th Century. 

Although in essence, the book focuses on military strategies, it can feel like a battlefield in the business world; where competition is deadly and the advancement of technology has bred the motto “innovate or die”— a stark message for companies who fail to embrace digital transformation. 

But before companies jump into digital transformation blindly and risk investing in the “wrong” technological solutions, the smart move is to know your business and to know your competition.

In business terms, trend awareness means being conscious of the ways organizations, in a wider sense, are developing, and what factors are driving that progression. In addition, leading businesses often translate the knowledge into actionable plans and accelerate the growth of their organizations. 

The importance of identifying industry trends in guiding strategy is such, that it is a full-time job for specialists. And as there is more data than ever before being generated day-by-day, from a multitude of endpoints, insights are becoming increasingly valuable.

What is a trend sensor?

TechHQ interviewed David Schatsky, a Deloitte Managing Director and ‘Trend Sensor’; “My role centers on identifying emerging business and technology trends that will be significant for our large global clients and our firm.

“We seek to connect the dots we come across in our reading, in the data we analyze, and in our conversations with experts inside and outside the firm.

“We are looking for trends that are nearing commercial relevance, in particular, signals of demand and supply, such as clients asking about and especially piloting things, researchers publishing about new techniques, vendors introducing new offerings, investors backing new ideas – if we see these align on the same thing, it’s likely to be meaningful for us.”

Asked about how data is collected, Schatsky said that artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a key role in accelerating the digestion of large amounts of information, which is bringing new horizons to trend discovery. His team of analysts deploys natural language (NLP) processing techniques and machine learning (ML) to synthesize information and glean valuable insights. 

Patterns formulated from his research are later shared with the broader professional community in a series of in-house publications such as Schatsky’s Signals For Strategists

Enterprises leverage business insights

Now, here’s how Schatsky’s team and work contribute to the wider community of enterprise and business. 

“Trends point to new opportunities, new markets, changing tastes, advantageous business models, and superior operating models. Companies able to see and act on these are at a big advantage.”

By being aware of technology trends, companies can make informed investments on technological solutions that can help drive their businesses. For example, the notion of predictive maintenance generated by a large amount of IoT data helped French power utility EDF Group save more than US$1 million with ML technology signaling early warning on equipment failure.

Similarly, Trenitalia plans to employ IoT to reduce unplanned downtime and save up to 10 percent on its yearly maintenance cost of €1.3 billion (US$1.44 billion). Increased awareness of how technologies are being adopted and the results they are driving can provide valuable intel for investments into digital transformation and technologies that can aid the bottom line. 

While organizations may not always be able to commit the time to source their won market research and trends analysis, keeping a regular eye on industry news and reports makes for a good start.

Schatsky reiterated the significance of industry-wide trends as an asset for companies to reexamine their strengths and weaknesses, and where they stand amongst competitors; “A company’s own insights are always important, but they can be even more effective when looked at alongside broader trends.”